With or without a golf cart, playing an 18-hole round of golf requires spending a lot of time on your feet. Overuse injuries of the foot and ankle are common, as are injuries related to the mechanics of your swing. Here are some tips and exercises to help protect your feet and ankles on the course:
Properly fitting golf shoes and socks are a must for the course. Make sure that you have sufficient soft spikes on your shoes to prevent you from sliding during your swing and potentially twisting your ankle. If you’re been wearing the same pair for a few seasons and the spikes are worn down, it might be time to change them.
Make sure you properly warm up your lower extremity prior to taking your first swing. It is very important that you don’t just get out of the car and step right up to your first tee shot.
Active warm up
First do an active warm up with either marching in place or walking around a bit.
Warm up your calves by performing some gentle calf elongations.
- Stand with one foot in front of the other
- Keeping both heels on the ground and your back straight, bend the front knee until you feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg
- Hold the stretch for 15 seconds
- Perform 3 repetitions on each side
The rotation of your foot and ankle is extremely important, as is having sufficient trunk and hip rotation. You want to properly stretch and loosen up your back and hips in all planes of motion, making sure that you are able to rotate to the right and to the left equally.
The Parallel Club Swings exercise shown below is a favorite of mine. It’s a great pre-game warm up that not only warms up your foot and ankle but also your hips, trunk, and spine.
- Standing in a golf stance, hold 2 clubs parallel to each other
- Swing the clubs from the backswing to the follow through, moving your arms and body together as a unit
- Keep your abdominals tight and your shoulders back
- Make sure your foot and ankle roll in and out throughout the movement to properly loosen them prior to play
Activating Your Calf Muscles
Activation of your calf muscles is also important prior to play. This exercise also can be done very easily on the course:
- Stand with your hips and shoulders level, and your knees straight
- Shift your weight up onto your toes, then bring your heels back down
- If balance is an issue for you, you can raise the heel of one foot at a time
- To increase the challenge, bend your knees as you perform the exercise and/or rock back and forth from your heels to your toes
Preventing injury and improving performance long term
If you play frequently, have dealt with injuries in the past, or are just starting out, look for a golf performance program in your area such as the one at the HSS Tisch Sports Performance Center. These programs are often offered by rehabilitation centers and golf courses, and can help analyze your stance and swing and put a plan together for you to improve your game while preventing injuries.
Gregory Reinhardt is a physical therapist with the Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation Department. He holds a Doctorate degree in physical therapy and is certified with the United States Golf Teachers Federation-Level II. Greg was an integral part of the team that developed the HSS Protect Your Game golf portal and appears in many of the videos.